Three Omaha Writers with New Books

Before I get too carried away with my own book launch next month, I wanted to take the time to wish a happy book birthday to Liz Kay and her debut novel Monsters: a Love Story. HBBD, Liz! While we’re at it, be sure to check out these two Nebraska-set historical novels that are now in pre-order–the latest from the much-beloved Jonis Agee and the debut offering from my Creighton MA compatriot Andrew Hilleman.

Monsters: a Love Story by Liz Kay (Putnam’s, 368 pgs. Out now!)

“A cracklingly funny and poignant debut novel about the ways we love, even when we’re not at our best. Since her husband died eight months ago, Stacey Lane’s been a certified mess—a poet who can’t write anymore, a good mother who feels like she’s failing her kids. She’s been trying to redefine herself, to find new boundaries. Tommy has no respect for boundaries. A surprisingly well-read A-list Hollywood star, Tommy’s fallen in love with Stacey’s novel-in-verse, a feminist reimagining of Frankenstein, no less. His passion for the book, and eventually its author, will set their lives on a collision course. They’ll make a movie, make each other crazy, and make love—but only in secret. As Stacey travels between her humdrum life in the suburbs of Omaha and the glamorous but fleeting escape Tommy offers, what begins as a distracting affair starts to pick up weight. It’s a weight that unbalances Stacey’s already unsteady life, but offers new depth to Tommy’s. About desire, love, grief, parenthood, sexual politics, and gender, Monsters: A Love Story is a witty portrait of a relationship gone off the rails, and two people who are made for each other—even if they’re not so sure they see it that way.”

The Bones of Paradise by Jonis Agee (William Morrow, 432 pgs. Aug 2, 2016.)

“Ten years after the Seventh Cavalry massacred more than two hundred Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, J.B. Bennett, a white rancher, and Star, a young Native American woman, are murdered in a remote meadow on J.B.’s land. The deaths bring together the scattered members of the Bennett family: J.B.’s cunning and hard father, Drum; his estranged wife, Dulcinea; and his teenage sons, Cullen and Hayward. As the mystery of these twin deaths unfolds, the history of the dysfunctional Bennetts and their damning secrets is revealed, exposing the conflicted heart of a nation caught between past and future. A kaleidoscopic portrait of misfits, schemers, chancers, and dreamers, Jonis Agee’s bold novel is a panorama of America at the dawn of a new century. A beautiful evocation of this magnificent, blood-soaked land—its sweeping prairies, seas of golden grass, and sandy hills, all at the mercy of two unpredictable and terrifying forces, weather and lawlessness—and the durable men and women who dared to tame it.”

World, Chase Me Down by Andrew Hilleman (Penguin, 287 pgs. Jan. 24, 2017.)

“A rousing, suspenseful debut novel—True Grit meets Catch Me If You Can—based on the forgotten true story of a Robin Hood of the American frontier who pulls off the first successful kidnapping for ransom in U.S. history. Once the most wanted man in America, Pat Crowe is a forgotten folk hero who captivated the nation as an outlaw for economic justice. World, Chase Me Down resurrects him, telling the electrifying story of the first great crime of the last century: how in 1900 the out-of-work former butcher kidnapped the teenage son of Omaha’s wealthiest meatpacking tycoon for a ransom of $25,000 in gold, and then burgled, safe-cracked, and bond-jumped his way across the country and beyond, inciting a manhunt that was dubbed ‘the thrill of the nation’ and a showdown in the court of public opinion between the haves and have-nots—all the while plotting a return to the woman he never stopped loving. As if channeling Mark Twain and Charles Portis, Andrew Hilleman has given us a character who is bawdy and soulful, grizzled, salty, and hard-drinking, and with a voice as unforgettable as that of Lucy Marsden in Alan Gurganus’s Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All—an anti-hero you can’t help rooting for.

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Wheeler Co-Judges 2nd Annual 1877 Society Writing Contest

5dd03-1426689743568Check out the below guidelines for the 2nd annual 1877 Society Writing Contest. I’m very happy to chair the 2016 awards committee along with fellow judges Liz Kay and Andrew Hilleman.

Last year my story “Violate the Leaves” (recently published in Boulevard and a part of my forthcoming-next-month collection Bad Faith) won the prize for best short story in the inaugural awards.

The contest is open to Omaha-area writers aged 49 and younger. The deadline is July 31. There are cash prizes and no entry fee. I’ll say that again: prizes, no fee. What’s not to love about that?

Prose, Poetry Sought for 2016 Writing Contest

The 1877 Society invites Omaha-area writers in their forties and younger to submit unpublished prose and poetry to the second annual 1877 Society Writing Contest. Personal essays and short stories under 5,000 words may be submitted in the prose category. One single-spaced poem of under three pages may be submitted in the poetry category. Entrants may submit one entry in both categories if they so choose.
Submissions are due using the following form by 11:59 p.m. CST on Sunday, July 31, 2016.

Winners will be announced during a ceremony at the (downtown) Omaha Lit Fest in October.
The winning poem and prose entry will each receive a $500 cash prize. A third, $250 prize will be awarded to the best work (either poetry or prose). The winning works will also be featured in Omaha Public Library’s digital collection. All winners will be selected by the awards committee.


The 2016 awards committee is:
Theodore Wheeler, author of the short story collection Bad Faith (July 2016) and the forthcoming novel Kings of Broken Things (August 2017).
Liz Kay, author of the novel Monsters: a Love Story (June 2016) and a founding editor of Spark Wheel Press and burntdistrict poetry journal.
Andrew Hilleman, author of the forthcoming novel World, Chase Me Down (January 2017).

For more information, contact Theodore Wheeler (tedwheeler@gmail.com) or call the Omaha Public Library Foundation (402-444-4589).

Pageturner’s Pub Quiz Starts October 7

Another quick announcement this week. I’m pretty stoked to share that, along with MFA buddies Ryan Borchers and Drew Justice, I’m starting a literary-themed pub quiz at Pageturners Lounge in Omaha. This is a pretty traditional trivia night–21 questions, teams competing for prizes–with the twist that we’ll also feature a celebrity guest to introduce to the community via a short interview and a special category wherein the guest will be asking the questions. This should be fun, I think, and hopefully widen the literary community in Omaha a bit. While at Creighton the past couple years, I thought a lot about how to present authors and their work in a different way than what can sometimes seem like the sterile environment of a reading. This format should allow for a little more interactivity and playfulness. In addition to asking their five questions, the authors will play along in the game (with a five point handicap, of course) and will be around to sign copies of their books or chat or talk trash about who knows more than who. We’ll see how it goes.

Our first night is Wednesday, October 7 at 9pm. Pageturners is at 5004 Dodge Street–where the release party for my chapbook was held earlier this year–with Timothy Schaffert as our esteemed guest. If you can’t make it to the first go, we’ll be back the first Wednesday of every month. (See below for the schedule through February.)

Here’s a link to the Facebook event page if you require more information. Otherwise I’ll just see you there!

PTL Pub Quiz Schedule

October 7: Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola & The Coffins of Little Hope
November 4: Jen Lambert & Liz Kay, editors of burntdistrict poetry journal & Spark Wheel Press
December 2: Todd Robinson, author of Note at Heart Rock & noted boulevardier
January 6: Cat Dixon, author of Our End Has Brought the Spring & Too Heavy to Carry
February 3: Wendy Townley and the 1877 Society, young lions of the Omaha Public Library